“I want power. I want the protection, comfort and safety that it brings. Without power you’re nothing, a corpse waiting to be reaped.” - Capac Raimi
Think Film Noir. Think black and white movies with deep shadows and strong characters. Picture Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, or Peter Brown from Josh Bazell’s BEAT THE REAPER. Now meet Darren Shan’s cocky, wise-cracking gangster, Capac Raimi, the main character in PROCESSION OF THE DEAD.
The story begins as Capac Raimi arrives on a train that has brought him to the City, a place run by the legendary and feared man known only as The Cardinal: “Stories about The Cardinal were as legion as the corpses buried in the city’s concrete foundations. Some were outlandish, some cruel, some spectacular.”
Capac is anxious to make his impression. He is brassy, naïve, and sure he will become a successful gangster as he plunges into this new world. His first step is to meet The Cardinal, a complex man who is not to be trifled with. He rules the City, he owns the City, he is the City. Capac is not intimidated, even when they meet and he observes the dreaded man, his strange collection of puppets, his “hooded eyes” like pools of death, and the stench of his power. The Cardinal immediately takes an interest in the ambitious young man and offers him tantalizing opportunities in his underworld. Capac must play by The Cardinal’s rules because there are no other rules, but he doesn’t like to follow rules.
Adrian Arne --- at one time one of The Cardinal’s favorites --- is assigned to “show him the ropes.” A friendship between the two young men develops, and Capac’s fondness for Adrian’s wit and knowledge becomes a staple in his life. One day Adrian just isn’t there, and worse, no one seems to know who he is or where he is. It would seem only Capac knew him because no one remembers such a man. Other things loom in Capac’s world that tell him all is not right. He can’t remember who he was before he got on the train that brought him to the City. He is concerned about the meaning of his name (it has some kind of Incan connection) that the Cardinal has given him. And what of those blind Incan priests who appear and disappear and who no one else can see?
There are other people in his life, such as Tesso Ford, an uncle he didn’t even know he had. There is also the killer Paucar Wami (another Incan name), who has snakes tattooed on his body and is definitely too dangerous to know. Then he meets Conchita, a woman with a childlike face but with the body of an old woman. He feels protective towards her, which surprises him, but he is also suspicious that she has connections that could endanger him. When he meets Ama, his world turns upside down, and he begins to learn more about The Cardinal’s secrets. He knows he cannot hide from The Cardinal, but who and what is The Cardinal hiding from him? Capac needs to find out about a “forbidden” list of names called the Ayuamarcan Files. Why is Capac’s name, along with so many missing friends, on this list? And, most of all, who was he before he became Capac Raimi?
Despite forebodings, Capac continues to live the brutal life required of him, all the while knowing that there are too many unanswered questions. His personality seems to become absorbed, like the strange green fogs that blanket the city, in the darkness around him. The turning point comes when he slips into the world of his possible past and reveals the man he might have been. Or was it just a dream/a nightmare? When he returns to the City and to The Cardinal, he is more dangerous, sinister and powerful than ever. Capac has embraced a monster. The Cardinal’s taunting words echo in his head: “Can you do that, Mr. Raimi, sacrifice those you are closet to, renounce your humanity and become a monster like me?”
Readers will be surprised by the twists, turns and unexpected forces of sheer evil. As a well-known young adult author (the Cirque du Freak and Demonata series), Darren Shan moves easily into the world of “magic realism” with this first installment of what will be a trilogy geared towards adults. Capac Raimi’s voice struts across the page in a mix of power and confusion as he fights the forces that consume him. He has tasted the blood of his enemy and the fear of the innocent. The question remains: Who can win?
Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on January 23, 2011